🐾 Maybe the reason I love animals so much, is because the only time they have broken my heart is when theirs has stopped beating.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Verreaux’s (Black) Eagles family expands

Have you ever felt the thrill and absolute awe of watching a black eagle catching thermals – one minute savouring the currents on its 2.3 meter wingspan, the next minute with wings folded arrow like it plummets downwards - lost momentarily in swirling cloud – it appears again resolute and intent as it nears the earth – you wonder if it will be able to stop before it hits the ground - and to your amazement its large wings stretch out and it hurtles back up into the sky! It is a totally breathtaking sight, as the eagle climbs higher and higher - until it is not visible with the naked eye - and all of this in just a few minutes.

This is the world of the ‘Black Eagles of Roodekrans.’ Weighing up to 4.8 kg this is one of Africa’s largest and most spectacular eagles. - These are certainly the masters of the sky!

The Verreaux’s (Black) Eagles have laid two eggs following the preparations for the nesting season that started at the end of February 2010. During the nesting season both male and female refurbish their nest with sticks and leafy sprays.

The eagles laid their 1st egg on 9th April 2010 and the second one on 12th April.
Both Eagles take turns in incubating the eggs – one will stay on the nest while the other goes hunting. The eggs are expected to hatch after 45 days incubation. Two fluffy white eaglets will emerge from the eggs four days apart. Black eagles are birds of prey that hunt other animals for their food.

These birds can be viewed at the Botanical Garden (Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens, Malcolm Road, Poortview, Roodepoort, Gauteng, South Africa) in their natural world as they hover above the property or can be viewed through a webcam connected to a TV set at the Visitor Centre at the entrance to the Botanical Garden.

Visit www.blackeagles.co.za for more info and a map on how to get there.

GPS - X: 27°50`42`` Y:-26°5`15``

Come and browse art in the stunning outdoor setting of the Botanical Garden.
10% of sales go to the Botanical Society's Garden Development Fund.

Forthcoming dates -
Selected Sundays :
9th 23rd & 30th May and
20th & 27th June 2010

Monday, 26 April 2010

Peeps, the Hummingbird baby

This is a stunning video of Peeps, the baby Hummingbird being fed by its mother out of Peter Tommerup's hand in Saratoga CA.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Thorn Trees of Africa

Thorn tree - watercolour on Ashrad 300gsm - 11" x 7.5" - Maree
Umbrella Thorn
{Acacia tortilis}

There are few more striking symbols of Africa than a thorn tree - its gnarled branches, graceful form, jagged thorns and abundant blooms, in many ways reflecting the paradoxes of the continent.

This Umbrella Thorn (Acacia tortilis) stands in one corner of my garden and offers a safe haven for many birds who seek a safe place to nest.

Umbrella Thorn Acacia {Acacia tortilis}
The Umbrella Thorn Acacia grows in Africa. There are over 700 species of the Acacia in Africa. Umbrella Thorn Acacia is one of the most recognizable trees of the African savanna. It grows in sand dunes and rocky grounds of Africa's grasslands. Acacias grow in areas with annual rainfall as low as 4cm. This tree can survive in 50°C temperatures during the day, and freezing temperatures at nights. The savanna that the Acacias live in is hot and dry in the respective summer of the Southern Hemisphere although at night the temperature can go below -18°C. During the winter months the savanna gets a lot of rain. The Umbrella Thorn grows up to 20 meters high and has a spreading, flat-tapped crown that gives it its name.

The structure of umbrella thorn trees preserves soil moisture by having a high proportion above-ground woody mass and low amount of foliage and the utmost top tips are a favourite grazing spot for Giraffes.

(Info from Wikipedia)

Friday, 9 April 2010

Seagulls in Randfontein

“To fly as fast as thought, to anywhere that is,” he said, ”you must begin by knowing that you have already arrived…”
- From Jonathan Livingstone Seagull

Seagulls in Randfontein - a quick watercolour study in my Moleskine watercolour sketchbook 8" x 5.5"

Not far from us, about 22km, lies the gold mining town of Randfontein, about 45 km west of Johannesburg, South Africa. With the Witwatersrand gold rush in full swing in 1889, mining financier J.B. Robinson bought the farm Randfontein and floated the Randfontein Estates Gold Mining Company. The town was established in 1890 to serve the new mine and was administered by Krugersdorp until it became a municipality in 1929.

We visited Randfontein yesterday, and what amazes me about this town is the fact that you can find flocks of Seagulls there, 600km from the coast! I've tried to track the history of how these birds could have landed up there, but to no avail - I have now contacted the Publicity Association in Randfontein with a query, so hopefully the mystery will be solved soon!

Monday, 5 April 2010

Dinner is served!


Many of us who put out food for hedgehogs would like to know more about our night-time visitors and how the food affects their lives. How far do they come to feed? How much do they eat? How important is this extra food supply? And are we discouraging them from their natural diet? The answers to some of the most commonly-asked questions are based on a survey of "garden hedgehogs" carried out by a team f biologists.

Hedgehogs don't necessarily live in the garden where they are fed. They may live nearby, or some distance away; some hedgehogs may come half a kilometer to the food bowl.

They certainly don't move their nests to get nearer to the regular food supply. It's not proven that, when they set out on a night's foraging, that they head straight for the food bowl and sometimes might not pitch up at all.

Hedgehogs are not "faithful" to one food bowl. They are likely to visit several gardens, and don't behave as if they "own" the feeding site; they don't squabble with one another when they meet there either.

the hedgehogs' appetites vary. In the survey, the most food eaten at one visit was 94g, more than one-tenth of the hedgehog's body weight. The most eaten in the course of an evening was 157g, but the average was 7g for every minute they spent at the bowl.

People are sometimes concerned that putting out artificial food will discourage hedgehogs from eating enough natural food. And how much is "enough" natural food? One thing is certain - even though hedgehogs may welcome the food we provide, they still seek out natural food even after a hearty meal at the bowl!

And what happens when the regular food supply is interrupted - when we go on holiday, for example? The hedgehogs don't seem to mind - they continue to forage for natural food in the area, as they have done all along!

Info from "Everything You Want To Know about Hedgehogs - Dilys Breese"


Friday, 2 April 2010

Uninformed and Totally Irrational

My heart and soul cringe when I hear how uninformed people can behave, becoming totally irrational and losing all perspective. Following on an article written by Heather Valance in her blog Personal Thoughts, "Our irrational fear of living things", it reminded me of an article I read on the website of Scorpions of South Africa, which illustrates exactly what our environment has to contend with, despite the fact that everybody is shouting "Green!" and "Global Warming!" and thought I'd post it as enlightenment to the wonderful insect world we have been blessed with.

"Deadly Spiders" at Eagle Canyon

"I had an e-mail from concerned someone who lived at Eagle Canyon, a Golf Estate in Gauteng. After receiving a hoax e-mail regarding Violin Spiders, the Estate Manager decided that to protect all the children on the estate, all spiders should be killed on sight. I was also told that there were Violin Spiders everywhere in people’s houses. Cool! I said, please collect some and bring them along to the talk.

Feelings obviously ran deep as I received a phone call instructing me not to say any good things about spiders. As you can imagine... I was not impressed. This kind of behaviour really disturbed me so I offered to give the facts about venomous spiders and scorpions.

I gave a presentation that I give to Pretoria University for their Diploma on Tropical diseases. It’s a post doctoral course and therefore my data and presentation has to be top notch, referenced and based on medical facts. I had modified it for the target audience but it contained the same facts, spider bite pictures and reference to hoax emails.

Digital projector and laptop under my arms I entered the Club House determined to present the facts, and answer any questions that they may have. The talk was well attended but I could see that it was going to be an uphill battle. The majority of the audience were so negative and misinformed. Claims of spider bite victims slipping into comas, descriptions of massive tissue damage and even numerous unnamed medical Doctors who were grateful that I was going to warn the public of the dangers these spiders cause were kicked around with idle contempt. Initially I was told that “there are Violin Spiders everywhere inside houses”, something I serious doubt in Gauteng. Someone did bring a single dreaded Violin Spider to the presentation but it was in fact a harmless Wolf Spider. So much for Violin Spiders running around everywhere.

During the presentation I gave the facts. What was interesting was the lack of understanding and appreciation from the educated audience. Most of us want to live with Nature and even pay a premium for it. The Golf Estate was no exception. However, when nature comes too close some get upset and react in an irrational way. “Kill it” is the reaction but hang on... We as humans built out homes on their homes. We have destroyed their natural habitat and provided attractants such as lights at night, water and favourable habitats. It’s no wonder that many creatures seek refuge near human habitation.

Something that that I always find to strange is that we shop at Woolworths because their food is pesticide and additive free. We pay a premium for organic vegetables and meat because of the risks associated with preservative, colour enhancing and growth stimulating chemicals that so many foods contain today. However, we are perfectly happy to spray our homes top to bottom with insecticides in order to kill insects that we encouraged to move in, in the first place. These insecticides are safe in small doses but how many of us actually adhere to the recommendations on the back of the can? These recommendations are there to make the product safe to use. Spray more than you should do and you are exposing you and your family to harmful levels of toxic chemicals.

Another issue I want to touch on in this article is the idea of unused land is waste land. Open, unused land is not wasteland. It’s not a piece of land that should be manicured, tidied up or made visually beautiful. It’s a piece of naturally occurring land that provides much needed micro habitats to a myriad of creatures and plants. It’s not a waste of space. They are islands within the urban environment where nature can thrive and seek shelter from humanity. Don’t hack and slash the grass, remove rocks to build a rockery, introducing Large Mouth Bass to natural waterways spells death for indigenous fish and amphibian populations.

Of all the preconceived ideas that had prompted me to give the presentation, not a single one was rational and factual. As I wrapped up my presentation, I felt I had added my bit of good in the world. The facts had been presented, questions answered, hoaxes expound, opinions changed. I hoped that the little good that I had done would spread to others at the Golf Estate and even further. The spiders would not be seen as deadly creatures to be persecuted on site. A little more thought would be taken, and a little more tolerance and respect would be given to Mother Nature."


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